Thousands protest in Serbia after deadly attack

Nabil Anas
Nabil Anas

Global Courant 2023-05-09 03:01:01

Tens of thousands of Serbs protested Monday, demanding better security, a ban on violent TV content and the resignation of key ministers, days after two mass shootings killed 17 people.

A crowd not seen in the Balkan country in years solemnly marched through the center of the capital Belgrade behind a banner reading “Serbia against violence.”

“We have gathered here to pay our last respects, to do our best so that this never happens again, anywhere,” said Belgrade’s Borivoje Plecevic.

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A boy who brought two pistols to his school on Wednesday killed eight students and a security guard. Six other students and a teacher were injured.

A day later, a 21-year-old man, brandishing an assault rifle and pistol, killed eight people and wounded 14 others.

A protester holds a banner reading “Stop Violence” during a march in Belgrade on Monday. (Darko Vojinovic/The Associated Press)

Demonstrators demand closure of the media

Both gunmen surrendered to police.

Protesters and opposition supporters demanded the closure of TV stations and tabloids they say promote violent and vulgar content.

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Opposition parties and some rights groups have accused President Aleksandar Vucic and his ruling populist Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) of autocracy, suppression of media freedoms, violence against political opponents, corruption and links to organized crime. Vucic and his allies deny the allegations.

Vucic said protesters on Monday tried to force him to resign and destabilize the country. He said he was ready to test his party’s popularity in a quick vote, but did not specify a date.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic speaks in Belgrade on Friday. Vucic said protesters on Monday tried to force him to resign and destabilize the country. (Darko Vojinovic/The Associated Press)

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“I will keep working and I will never back down from the street and the mafia…Whether it will be a government reshuffle or (early) elections, we will see,” he said in a live TV broadcast.

Parliamentary elections in Serbia are scheduled for 2026 and the next presidential election is scheduled for 2027.

Protesters also called for the resignation of Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic and Aleksandar Vulin, the director of the state security agency, and the resignation of the government’s Electronic Media Regulatory Committee (REM) within a week.

A person reads obituaries on Monday of the victims of a mass shooting at a Belgrade school. A gunman killed eight students and a security guard at the school last Wednesday. (Darko Vojinovic/The Associated Press)

Amnesty for handing in illegal weapons

Education Minister Branko Ruzic resigned on Sunday.

Demonstrators demanded an emergency parliamentary session and a debate on the overall security situation.

Snezana, a woman in her 60s who refused to give her last name, said the demonstrations were an act of solidarity against violence in the media, parliament and everyday life. “Solidarity for lost children,” she said.

Parents of 13-year-old Ema Kobiljski, center, mourn during a funeral procession in Belgrade on Saturday. Kobiljski was killed in a school shooting on Wednesday. (Armin Durgut/The Associated Press)

Similar protests were held in several other Serbian cities.

In response to the shootings, Serbian police on Monday announced a month-long amnesty for handing in illegal weapons. It said more than 1,500 were transferred on the first day.

Vucic also announced police checks on registered gun owners.

Serbia has a deep-rooted gun culture, and along with the rest of the Western Balkans, is awash with military-grade arms and ammunition in private hands after the wars of the 1990s that tore apart the former Yugoslavia.

Thousands protest in Serbia after deadly attack

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